Health sector praises protective gear efforts

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty
A huge distribution effort is ensuring all medical professionals who need personal protective equipment (PPE) get it, WellSouth says.

Concerns have been raised by clinicians nationwide in recent days about whether New Zealand has enough surgical gowns, masks and gloves to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

WellSouth, a primary health network, established an ordering system for PPE some time ago, chief executive Andrew Swanson-Dobbs said.

‘‘I am very confident practices and pharmacies know what they need and how to get it, and that there is a very good supply chain in place,’’ he said.

‘‘When we have asked for supplies from the [Southern] District Health Board I have been absolutely impressed with the support ... and the logistics to get it.

‘‘It has been a stunning reaction from this DHB to ensure general practice and the wider primary care system gets the things that it needs.’’

Releasing national reserves of medical supplies stockpiled in preparation for a pandemic requires the authorisation of Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield, who yesterday agreed to the release of more than 640,000 face masks — two weeks’ supply — to DHBs.

‘‘We know we have good supplies of PPE, particularly masks, coming in, so we will start to rotate out some of our pandemic stock in April and get that out to DHBs and make sure everybody has got the PPE that they need,’’ Dr Bloomfield said.

At present, national reserves contained 1.9million aprons and gowns, 2.7million pairs of gloves, 60,000 sets of eye protection, and 18million masks, and DHBs also had their own supplies.

The Ministry of Health was ‘‘exploring all existing and arranging new avenues to ensure we maintain our stock’’

and had updated information for clinicians and workers about when and when not to use PPE.

‘‘We are now having to get PPE to health workers and frontline workers who wouldn’t normally need it, for example home and community workers, pharmacies and aged residential care,’’ Dr Bloomfield said.

Mr Swanson-Dobbs said WellSouth spoke to practices and pharmacies daily.

‘‘They know if they get an order to us by 1pm every day then we will endeavour to ensure we work with the DHB and other suppliers to make sure they get the necessary equipment.’’

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation had earlier expressed concern that members might not be able to get PPE.

Organiser Celeste Crawford said union members were pleased the ministry had freed up more supplies.

‘‘It’s a real positive step, not just for nurses on wards but members who are in GP clinics, who work in trust and private hospitals, and all these areas ... [affected by] Covid-19.’’

SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming said PPE was available to all southern health workers who needed it, but it was right that clinicians were concerned to make sure that remained the case as the number of cases of Covid-19 increased.

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists yesterday said it had had reports of PPE and hand sanitiser being stolen from several DHBs.

Mr Fleming said the SDHB, which earlier this month reported that hand sanitiser was being taken from Dunedin Hospital, still had issues with equipment going missing.

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